The MLB playoffs are here, which means time for poorly thought out predictions based on my own personal preferences and biases. My National League dance card is already ruined, thanks to the Pittsburgh Pirates downing the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night. Let's check out the American League.
Wild Card Game: Cleveland Indians (92-70) versus Tampa Bay Rays (92-71). The Rays already have already had a taste of the one-game playoff, thanks to their win over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
Time and time again, the Rays have proven to be the little team that could, in part because of their shoe string budget and small market appeal. But here they are, once again, proving they can play with the big boys. It helps when they have the likes of Evan Longoria (32 homers) and rookie phenom Wil Myers (.831 OPS). Their strength lies in their rotation, where David Price (3.33 ERA), Matt Moore (3.29), Alex Cobb (2.76) and Chris Archer (3.22) hang out. Opposing hitters certainly have their work cut out for themselves.
That brings us to the Indians, who didn't excel at any one thing this season. They were in the middle of the pack in both pitching and hitting. They aren't without talent, as their rotation is led by Ubaldo Jimenez (3.30 ERA), and Justin Masterson (3.45). On the other side of the ball, catcher Carlos Santana leads the team with an .832 OPS. He is joined by upstart second baseman Jason Kipnis (17 homers), and OF/1B Nick Swisher (team-leading 22 homers).
And the rest...
Boston Red Sox (97-65, A.L. East Champions): The resurgent Sox, who only two years ago were victimized by a historic collapse, have perhaps the best offense in the league (they led the A.L. In runs, OBP, and slugging), thanks to the likes of David Ortiz (.959 OPS, 30 homers), Mike Napoli (23 homers), Dustin Pedroia (.301 batting average), and Shane Victorino (.801 OPS, 15 homers). In true Red Sox fashion, they wear down opposing pitchers with tremendous plate discipline and power.
They aren't as talented on the mound, but are not without solid options. Veterans Jon Lester (3.75 ERA) and John Lackey (3.52) have led the way, while mid-season acquisition Jake Peavy (4.04 ERA) and recently off-the-DL Clay Buchholz (1.74) provide Boston with plenty of depth. Their bullpen has proven to be a great strength this season, thanks to closer Koji Uehara (1.09 ERA), and relievers Junichi Tazawa (3.16), and Craig Breslow (1.81).
Interesting sidenote: Former Phillie Shane Victorino, who signed a three-year deal with the Sox, has taken to hitting exclusively from the right side as of late, thanks to an injury that makes it difficult to switch hit. The result has been eye-opening, as Victorino has an .874 OPS from the right side of the plate. Which makes you wonder: What has he been doing trying to hit lefty all those years?
Detroit Tigers (93-69, A.L. Central Champions): The reigning American League Champions won the division handily, with a balanced attack of hitting and pitching.
Their offense begins and ends with Miguel Cabrera, the 2012 (and likely the 2013) A.L. MVP, who hit .348 with 44 homers this season. He is a one man wrecking crew, but it never hurts to have help like Prince Fielder (25 homers), Torii Hunter (17 homers) or Victor Martinez (14 homers).
On the mound, though, is where the Tigers are relentless. They can start Justin Verlander (3.46 ERA), Max Scherzr (2.90), Doug Fister (3.67), or Anibal Sanchez (2.57). There is really no weak spot in their rotation, which boasts high-powered arms that have proven to be among the best in the league in 2013.
Oakland Athletics (96-66, A.L. West Champions): Billy Beane went and did it again, and was rewarded with the second best record in the American League. Without a ton of money to play with, the A's fielded one of the best offenses and pitching staffs in the league, and on the division without too much difficulty.
They are led by third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 24 bombs to go along with a .301/.384/.499 line. He is joined by first baseman Brandon Moss, who led the team with 30 homers and a .522 slugging percentage. Not to be overlooked is shortstop Jed Lowrie (.290 batting average), or outfielders Coco Crisp (22 HR) and Yeonis Cespedes (26 HR). What they lack in flash, they make up for with consistency, which has led them to the third best OPS in the A.L. In 203.
Similarly, their pitching staff has been unconventional, in that they are not the overpowering. They are led by Bartolo Colon, who has a 2.65 ERA in 190.1 innings pitched. Joining him are A.J. Griffin (3.83), Jarrod Parker (3.97) and Sonny Gray (2.67). They possess an equally talented bullpen, anchored by closer Grant Balfour (38 saves, 2.59 ERA) and fellow relievers Sean Doolittle (3.13) and Ryan Cook (2.54).
Tampa Bay over Cleveland
Oakland over Detroit
Boston over Tampa Bay
Oakland over Boston